Online Exclusive: Account Action

LENSCRAFTERS PUTS CREATIVE ACCOUNT INTO REVIEW

Incumbent Deutsch Will Not Participate

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The LensCrafters brand, which has retained Deutsch as its advertising agency since 1993, has put its creative account into review.
Deutsch, which has handled the LensCrafters ad account since 1993, will not participate in the review.

The moves comes as LensCrafters' parent Luxottica Retail, the North American retail unit of Italian eyeglasses maker Luxottica Group, also launches reviews of the media-buying accounts for all of its brands, including LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Sunglass Hut, Watch Station and Watch World.

Will not defend
Val Di Febo, managing partner and general manager of Deutsch, New York, said the Interpublic Group of Cos. agency would not be participating in the LensCrafters review.

Regina Sharp, vice president of marketing for the Mason, Ohio-based company, said the review "is part of best practices" and that the company "will be reviewing all agency partnerships on a periodic basis." Earlier this month, LensCrafters awarded direct-marketing duties to independent Doner, Southfield, Mich., after a review.

Agency consultancy Pile & Co, Boston, is handling the review that was announced today. Nadira Vallee, a Pile & Co. consultant, would not comment on Luxottica Retail's media agency relationships.

Omnicom Group's OMD handles Luxxotica's media planning and buying and will be defending the account, according to an executive familiar with the situation.

In 2004, Luxxotica Retail spent $62 million in the U.S. to advertise various brands, according to TNS Media Intelligence; LensCrafters campaigns received $54 million of that.

For Deutsch, the LensCrafters review seems the latest bit of bad business news.

Lost accounts
In May, job site Monster Worldwide dropped Deutsch, which had been Monster's agency of record for a $40 million general advertising creative and interactive account, and weeks later named 3-year-old Brand Content, Boston, as its lead creative agency. Deutsch retained media buying and planning.

Other Deutsch losses this year include media buying and creative for Revlon ($72 million) and Almay ($40 million); creative duties for Molson Coors Brewing's Coors Light brand; and media buying on Bank of America (over $200 million). After Mitsubishi Motors Corp. put its creative account into review late in 2004, Deutsch, which handled the business from offices in Los Angeles and Toronto, opted not to defend the account. Deutsch's Toronto office has since closed due to the loss.

The agency is a finalist in the $300 million review for home improvement chain Lowe's.

Ms. Di Febo strongly disputed the notion that this review is in any way a reflection of weakness for Deutsch or is related to other client losses. "We're making a decision about how to use our resources," she said.

Deutsch new business
While the agency's New York and Los Angeles offices have reeled in new business in the past seven months, including branding work for retailer Babies R Us, creative duties for ConAgra's Orville Redenbacher, and creative duties for PacifiCare Health Systems, the new accounts are not as large as the total of those lost. Other Deutsch clients include Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Expedia and Starwood Hotels' Sheraton and Westin brands.

Deutsch, founded in 1969, has for the past decade been one of the ad industry's hottest shops and until recently a strong performer among the hundreds of agencies owned by Interpublic, which bought Deutsch in 2000. That deal netted CEO Donny Deutsch, whose father founded the agency, more than $200 million, money that's given him freedom and opportunity to explore new interests, from filmmaking (he is an investor in Deutsch/Open City Films) to TV (hosting CNBC's nightly talk show The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch).

Planned agency changes
Late last year, Mr. Deutsch said that because he is spending more of his time on non-advertising-related activities, he would soon name a CEO, widely expected to be Linda Sawyer, now the agency's chief operating officer. "I have pulled back dramatically and let other people step up," he told Advertising Age in December. "That's always been my management style. You don't give titles -- titles are earned. I will make the proper designations across the board to really signify all the contribution these folks have been making."

But seven months into 2005, no changes have been announced by Mr. Deutsch.

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